"Something different every night"Photography by Alex Harvey-Brown with permission for Varsity

Your favourite musicals for inspiration and a title from the audience. That’s all Showstopper! needs in order to deliver a fabulously fun musical experience. Showstopper! The Improvised Musical gives a completely improvised show every night based on audience suggestions. It has been a rip-roaring success since it was founded in 2008. It has had an Olivier award, several sell-out years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and two West End runs and continues to astound now that its at the Cambridge Arts Theatre.

“It has had an Olivier award, several sell-out years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and two West End runs”

Last night’s performance was titled Death in Bali (based off an audience suggestion) and took place at a yoga retreat, and once they received those rapidly fired suggestions the performers immediately leapt into action with an opening song about yoga and meditation, already setting the stage for a hilarious evening. The musical homages that were influenced by (also based off audience suggestions) included Hamilton, Phantom of the Opera and Wicked, and musical numbers was executed with such expertise it was startling to know they’d been invented on the spot. One of the biggest appeals of the show is the knowledge that we're part of a select group of people who have seen it, and no other audience will ever have the exact same experience.

The show got progressively more ridiculous as it went on, featuring parrots of prophecy and the Lady of Ireland, but the cohesive nature of the troupe and their extraordinary stage presence meant you were engaged the entire time. Laughter was abound in the theatre, from people of all ages, a complete joy to experience. Improvisation is a high-risk endeavour, at any point things could go wrong. Part of the pleasure is watching the troupe skirt tantalisingly close to disaster. So much of the joy that improv creates comes from watching the performers bravely and expertly face down that fear, using ingenuity, bold choices and a wonderful musical range. At some point a murder plot and investigation was introduced and the troupe immediately launched into a Chicago style jazz performance, worlds away but every bit as good as the Hamilton style rap earlier in the evening. 

“Improvisation is a high-risk endeavour”

It is definitely a show that requires a sense of humour, it is pure farce and will disappoint anyone looking for something meatier, but the audience clearly enjoyed it since the laughter throughout the evening never once died down. The show contained a healthy dose of both farce and subtle adult jokes, making it suitable for all ages. We got chatting to some fellow audience members and one made the bold claim that although he detested musicals and only came for his partner’s sake- but found the show exceptional and was prepared to come back the very next night. 


Mountain View

Green Showstopper! A new never-to-be-repeated production

One drawback to improvisation is that the shows are, naturally, somewhat rough around the edges and it is unfortunate that they will never be allowed to reach their full potential. But this does not diminish the pleasure of seeing such an ingenious and talented team throw everything at a show that, by its very nature, is ephemeral. It is clear at every moment on stage that the cast are having the time of their lives, encouraging the audience to do the same.

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical is playing at the Cambridge Arts Theatre from 1st to the 2nd of July at 7.30pm